36 Bruce to Curtin

Cablegram 145[A] LONDON, 1 September 1942, 11.35 p.m.

FOR THE PRIME MINISTER PERSONAL HIMSELF ONLY

Before replying to your telegrams 407 and 408 [1] the Prime Minister referred them to the Chiefs of Staff for their appreciation. Your message to the President (Johcu No. 40) [2] has now been similarly referred. This will probably involve a few days delay. In the meantime it is desirable that I should give you background with regard to the three Spitfire squadrons and seek your guidance as to the line I should pursue with the Prime Minister in regard to paragraph 10 of your 408.

The spontaneous offer of three Spitfire squadrons was made by the Prime Minister for reasons you set out in paragraph 9 and was a generous response to the case made by Evatt. It was intended to be something additional to any assignments we would be entitled to.

All aircraft, however, whether United States or United Kingdom, fall into a common pool and are subject to assignment under procedure laid down.

The Americans were never consulted in regard to the three Spitfire squadrons for Australia and showed a somewhat surprising amount of resentment in regard to it when they heard of it, and their representatives on L.M.A.B. [3] asked that it should be recorded that they had not been consulted.

I have no doubt the Prime Minister, although I have not yet had an opportunity of discussing the matter with him, would accept your interpretation of his intention, would agree that it is correctly set out in Ismay's letter [4] and would be prepared to honour his obligation. It is however for consideration whether our wisest course would be to press him to do so.

The form his action would take would be to invoke the President's aid so that [the] [5] three Spitfire squadrons would not be taken into account in reconsideration, resulting from your message to the President, of air requirements in southwest Pacific by the United States Chiefs of Staff and Combined Chiefs of Staff.

It is greatly to our interest that this reconsideration should be undertaken in the best possible atmosphere. The Prime Minister's intervention to ensure the non-inclusion of the three Spitfire squadrons would seriously prejudice the atmosphere and probably result in detriment to our case.

In my opinion the right line for me to take with the Prime Minister will be, having obtained full recognition of his undertaking that [the] three Spitfire squadrons were additional, to agree not to press him to take that point up with the President if he will intervene with the President to help us in [our] general case for increased air strength in the southwest Pacific.

Please let me have your views as soon as possible.

BRUCE

1 Documents 27-8.

2 See Document 31, note 6.

3 London Munitions Assignment Board.

4 See Documents on Australian Foreign Policy 1937-49, vol. V, Document 502.

5 Words in square brackets have been corrected/inserted from Bruce's copy on file AA:M100, September 1942.

[FA:A3195, 1942, 1.34967]